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About Us

Serving Hungry Townsfolk and Travelers Since 1834.

History unfolded within its walls

George Caleb Bingham immortalized it in his paintings. Political careers began over rounds of beer; romances began in the ballroom. It has been the heartbeat of Arrow Rock since 1834.

Mr. Huston’s House

Joseph Huston moved to Arrow Rock in 1819, ten years before it was incorporated as a town, and is counted among Arrow Rock’s founding fathers. In 1833, he spent $89 to buy all four lots of Block 17, and it was there that he built a four-room, two-story, Federal style structure. Although he envisioned it solely as his family’s home, opportunity was at Huston’s doorstep as tired, hungry travelers heading West passed by his house.

Huston quickly expanded his home to make room for those travelers, and he added a mercantile and a second floor ballroom in 1840. During the mid- to late 1800s, the J. Huston Tavern served as hotel, restaurant and community gathering place. During some of the town’s darkest days, it even served as a hospital.

Huston sold his interest in the Tavern in 1858. It was subsequently owned and operated by other families, including the Cobbs, the Scriptures, and Joseph Huston’s daughter, Rachel McJilton.

Much of the town’s prosperity depended on trade with the South, so the end of the Civil War marked a period of a decline for Arrow Rock and its Tavern. By the turn of the century, the Tavern’s glory had faded and it, like the rest of Arrow Rock, the old building seemed destined to disappear into the pages of history.

Revolutionary Women

Today we would call it “heritage tourism,” but in 1912, the Arrow Rock chapter of the National Old Trails Road Association just wanted to give people a reason to come to town. They set up a museum room in the J. Huston Tavern and filled it with historical artifacts. Those artifacts often had nothing at all to do with Arrow Rock, but they were interesting curiosities that appealed to families who were venturing out in their new automobiles.

The real renaissance of the J. Huston Tavern came in 1923 when the Sedalia (Osage) Chapter of Missouri State Society Daughters of the American Revolution proposed that the State Legislature purchase the Tavern from Mrs. Nettie Dickson, Arrow Rock Chapter DAR Regent, for $5000, making it the first building purchased with public funds for the purpose of preservation. The legislature recognized the can-do spirit of the DAR and put them in charge of the restoration and the tavern’s operation. Many chapters within the state worked tirelessly to restore the Tavern and were so successful that the State Legislature purchased land around the area for the purpose of the First State Park. The Tavern’s restoration inspired others, too, and soon a preservation revolution was underway in Arrow Rock.

The Tavern is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a certified site of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.

Changes made by the many owners have obscured some original details of the building. Major restorations occurred in 1926, 1934, 1955 and 1987. Ongoing building maintenance is funded by the 1/10 of 1% Parks and Soils Sales Tax.

The women of the DAR operated the Tavern until 1984. After that, a string of concessionaires managed the business until the state took it over in 2014. The Tavern is now maintained by Missouri State Parks, and the restaurant is managed by the Friends of Arrow Rock, Inc., under a partnership formed in 2019.